Monthly Archives: September 2018

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

By Rebecca Wells

Nationally renowned theatre director Sidda Walker has inadvertently caused a rift with her mother, Vivi Walker, that seems irreparable. After the success of one of her shows, a New York Times article profiling Sidda shares everything that contributed to her success, including childhood abuse from Vivi. Unmoored from her childhood and home, Sidda attempts to carry on with plans for her next show and her upcoming wedding, but to no avail. She calls a halt to wedding planning and seeks solitude with the hope that it also brings wisdom and reconciliation. In an attempt to reconnect with her mother, she requests information about the Ya-Yas, the band of four friends closer than sisters that her mother belongs to, saying that it will help her plan for her next show. Vivi obliges and sends a scrapbook of her life with the sisterhood. As Sidda wanders through the pages, she finds stories, insights, and love for the woman whose life is captured in these pages. She also finds many more questions in what answers are left out of the scrapbook. Only by yielding to the unknowns and the reality that there will always be unknowns, Sidda begins to rekindle her connections to her fiancé, her mother, and herself.

“Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” by Rebecca Wells tells the generational stories of women learning to live, love, and thrive in the deep south of Louisiana. Focusing on themes of family, Wells describes all variations of this theme in the relationships among her characters: nuclear family, extended family, and chosen family. She traces the changes in these relationships over time, showing the childhood experiences that influenced Vivi Walker’s development into an adult navigating the rewards and pitfalls of motherhood. Throughout it all is the constant undercurrent of support from the Ya-Yas, the unbreakable bonds of loyalty and love made stronger over the years through shared experiences of loss, grief, and suffering. While Sidda is limited to the information contained in the scrapbook, Wells shares the answers left out of the scrapbook about Vivi Walker’s life with the reader, drawing her audience in with seemingly insider knowledge and juicy secrets. Written in alternating perspectives and time periods, Wells creates the distinct worlds of Vivi Walker, and what Sidda knows about Vivi Walker. As mother and daughter grow individually, they also grow in their relationship to each other.

I appreciated the themes, lessons, and storylines of this book, but it took a while to get there. For me, it seemed like the plot didn’t really pick up speed until halfway through the book. It starts off with Ya-Ya jargon and insider knowledge, which is probably designed to draw the reader in because it leaves so many questions unanswered, but left me uninterested in what was happening because I didn’t have all the information. As the story progressed and more background was shared with the reader, I cared more about the story and the characters. I probably won’t re-read this book, but it certainly wasn’t a bad way to pass the time.

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Grasshopper Cupcakes

A labor of love, and well-worth the result! These cupcakes are amazing. You could skip the frosting and just eat the cupcakes with the mint syrup to save yourself a step and eat these delicious treats sooner.

Mint Syrup Ingredients
½ C sugar
½ C water
Pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla
4 sprigs fresh mint

 

Mint Syrup Directions

Combine sugar, water, salt, and mint in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve sugar.

Add in vanilla.

Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 20-25 minutes.

Strain the mint from the finish syrup (meaning, pour syrup through a sieve or colander into a container).

Use warm or at room temperature, can be stored in the fridge

 

Cupcake Ingredients
2 ½ C flour
1 ½ C sugar
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ C cocoa powder
4 oz semisweet chocolate, melted and mostly cooled (chocolate chips work well. Zap in the microwave for 10-15 second intervals, stirring in between, until just melted)
¾ C plain yogurt (if you can only find Greek yogurt at the store, thin it down with water until the consistency of regular yogurt)
1 C (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled (can substitute 1 C oil for 1 C butter)
1 C water
4 large eggs at room temperature

 

Cupcake Directions

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Add in the wet ingredients (chocolate, yogurt, butter, water, eggs) and whisk until no longer lumpy

Bake at 350 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (cooking time varies depending on what you are making. Regular cupcakes took about 13-16 minutes, mini cupcakes took 9-10 minutes, 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan would probably take 25-35 minutes)

After removing from the oven, poke holes in the cake/cupcakes and pour on mint syrup. Let the cake/cupcakes finish cooling in pan (for maximum syrup absorption), then remove.

 

Frosting Ingredients
1 ½ C unsalted butter (3 sticks) at room temperature (let butter sit out about 30 minutes)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and mostly cooled (same instructions as above)
4 C powdered sugar
For additional labor of love, whip up a batch of plain frosting and divide it into three parts. Flavor one with mint extract, one with vanilla, and one with melted chocolate.

 

Frosting Directions

Combine butter, cocoa powder, salt and 2 cups of powdered sugar on low speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute.

Add remaining sugar and beat on medium speed about 1.5-2 minutes

Add in melted chocolate and beat frosting until very light and fluffy, about 2 more minutes

Enjoy!

 

This recipe from Cake Magic

 

 

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